Strike threat in Namibia forces president to cancel Jamaica visit
GEINGOB... was expected to be in Jamaica August 4-8 as a special guest at Jamaica's 60th anniversary of Independence celebrations

A threat by civil servants in Namibia to stage a general strike is being reported in that country as the reason for the abrupt cancellation of a planned visit to Jamaica by President Hage Geingob and a delegation which was to include First Lady Monica Geingos.

Geingob and the first lady were expected to be in Jamaica August 4-8 as special guests at Jamaica's 60th anniversary of Independence celebrations.

The Namibian president was also expected to address a special sitting of the Parliament, hold bilateral discussions with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and other Jamaican Government officials, and pay a courtesy call on Governor General Sir Patrick Allen.

Other items on the itinerary included attending the Jamaica 60 Independence Grand Gala and laying a wreath at the shrine of Jamaica's first national hero, Marcus Garvey.

On Tuesday the Jamaica Information Service informed media houses that the visit had been cancelled with no official word from the Government as to the reason.

In its only comment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade announced that the inaugural meeting of the Jamaica/Namibia Joint Committee, initially scheduled for Tuesday, had been rescheduled to today.

But media reports in Namibia on Tuesday quoted presidential spokesperson Alfredo Hengari as saying: "The president takes governance seriously. For that reason the president will remain focused on dealing with the issue of a potential strike by a section of the civil service, which is 42,000 out of about 120,000 civil servants.

"The president has respect for the constitution and democratic process which gives Namibians the right to industrial action. It is important to be cognisant of the fact there are rights and responsibilities — and the rights of one person commence where those of another person end.

"The president has cancelled a State visit to Jamaica where he was the guest of honour for the jubilee celebrations of the Independence of Jamaica. He also cancelled a state visit to Cuba, to deal with the strike."

The media reports also quote the Namibia Local Business Association as calling on the president and ministers to halt international trips in order to save money, and to instead do everything in their power to avoid a civil servant strike.

The association also suggested that the cash-strapped Government give 10 per cent of tax revenue collected from civil servants back to them to stave off the industrial action.

The pleading by the business lobby group for Geingob and his ministers to stay put in the country reportedly came at a time when there are concerns that a large number of Namibian Government officials had allegedly booked first class flights to Cuba.

Namibian Government employees last week voted in favour of embarking on industrial action over salary increments.

Results from the national verification centre on Sunday showed that 42,216 civil servants voted "yes" to taking industrial action, with only 1,232 voting against.

In the meantime, with the cancellation of the visit by the Nambian president it now appears that Geoffrey Onyeama, minister of foreign affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, will be the highest-ranking international visitor for Jamaica's Independence.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith on Tuesday announced that Onyeama arrived in the island last Saturday, as a special guest for Jamaica's Emancipation celebration activities, and will participate in bilateral meetings with his Jamaican counterpart.

"I am delighted to welcome Minister Onyeama to Jamaica to participate in our Emancipation celebrations as this year's commemoration is such a special one for Jamaica. Minister Onyeama's presence also provides the opportunity for us to reignite our ancestral connections — so many of our people can trace their lineage back to Nigeria. Our bond, therefore, is special because it is so deeply entrenched in our shared history and past," said Johnson Smith.

"Jamaica looks forward to a fruitful dialogue with the Nigerian delegation, which follows closely the Jamaica/Nigeria Joint Commission held in February this year in Nigeria. We expect to bring our mutual goals closer to reality," added Johnson Smith.

BY ARTHUR HALL Editor-at-large halla@jamaicaobserver.com

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